This could be it. That was the only thought in my head as I chased a plastic Frisbee in the end zone. The game was tied at 10-10 — whoever scored the next point would win the game and continue on to nationals. My team had been playing with only one substitute all day; our current opponent had over seven subs. My team had worked so hard to get this far, but we were tired and injured. I saw the disc flying over my head but also saw a girl on the other team rapidly approaching behind me, hoping to thwart my efforts — my team’s efforts. This could be it. No, this is it. I jumped and grabbed the disc out of the air (with two hands, of course) and looked down at my feet. I was nearly four feet inbounds and immediately started crying tears of joy. I looked up and saw my team rushing toward me, jumping, cheering and crying. That was it.
That was one of the moments I realized that club Ultimate Frisbee gave me as much of an education as my math or biology classes. Looking back, I realize that I learned a lot more from my Ultimate Frisbee team than how to throw a flick or play zone defense. I entered college as a shy, awkward girl who hadn’t needed to make new friends since the sixth grade. I left college as a confident, assertive adult who understood the implications of accountability and responsibility, and not just their dictionary meaning. It turns out that there are life lessons to be found from that white plastic Frisbee, the Ultimate shorts that are too long and the cheesy cheers at the end of the game. Here are five of my favorites:
“My actions affect others.” – When you drop the Frisbee during a game, the possession turns over and you and your teammates must run the length of the field, this time on defense. When someone opts not to go to a tournament at the last minute, you feel the loss of that one extra sub, especially on a small team. I learned that my actions affect other people. While my teammates may not say anything, the guilt gnawing inside of me at times was enough to make me change my behavior. To show my respect to my teammates, colleagues and professors, I committed to always come prepared, put in a full effort and appreciate others’ effort and time, too.
“Only 100 more feet.” – While my self-motivation often stemmed from not wanting to be the first person to throw up during the track workouts, I surprised myself in learning how mentally strong I could be. It started out with small goals such as “only 100 more feet” and eventually turned into “only one more mile.” I transferred my self-motivation skills to my homework, reading passages and even standardized practice tests. The pride that I feel after completing my goal — and knowing my words helped — is irreplaceable.
“Yes, you did foul me. Yes, I am sure.” – In a self-officiated sport like Ultimate Frisbee, you have to stand up for yourself if someone fouled you, caused a pick or traveled. More importantly, you do not back down, assuming you are being honest about the call. Being put in these confrontational scenarios has helped me become more assertive and confident. The assertiveness that I learned through Ultimate has helped me become more poised, overcome my shyness in class and made me more comfortable in new social situations.
“Yes, I would like to try that.” – Learning a new skill set and game proved to be more difficult than I anticipated; I was out of my comfort zone and soon decided that I was physically incapable of executing a flick throw. However, with the regimented weekly practices and expertise of my teammates and coach, I did learn how to throw a flick, hammer, push pass, high release back hand and even made up a few throws of my own. Seeing my improvement in my skills and comfort level, I felt victorious and eventually many things did not seem so impossible or absurd anymore — like running a half-marathon, spontaneously singing at my cousin’s wedding with a less-than-exceptional singing voice or performing stand-up comedy.
“I’ve seen you run faster. You can do it.” – Before I started playing Ultimate, I underestimated the value of a team’s support and usually thought of it as superficial. However, I learned faster and enjoyed the game much more when my teammates genuinely showed an interest in helping me. I may not be so lucky to always be surrounded by such supportive people, but I definitely strive to provide the same encouragement to others now. Teamwork, whether it is in school or on the field, is more than being able to tolerate the other group members; it’s also helping them.
I know that club Ultimate Frisbee may not appeal to everyone, but these lessons are found in other clubs, too. Whatever club sport or organization you decide to join, make sure that it enhances you as a person, not just your resume. Often, students overlook joining club sports while in college because they are intimidated, afraid they aren’t athletic enough or don’t think they have enough time. I felt all of those things for the first few months of practice, but found the Ultimate culture to be supportive and appreciated the scheduled practices to keep me in shape. Four years ago, I might have laughed if you said that I was going to join club Ultimate Frisbee. And now I can assure you that it has been a highlight of my college experience.
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